Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tara Air crash was human error: Probe report

The fatal crash of Tara Air on February 24 occurred due to human error, investigation panel formed to probe the cause of the air accident reported today.
Submitting the report of the crash – that had claimed 23 lives – to the Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister Ananda Prasad Pokharel, the panel said that human error was the cause for crash.
The airlines crashed as the pilot had diverted aircraft to the left of the dedicated route because it was enshrouded in cloud. "The pilot had not followed the basic rules of VFR flight and entered the cloud and lost awareness of the situation,” the report stated, adding that the pilot had deviated from the flight plan and had flown in between two hills while crossing Tatopani of Myagdi. "The pilot had then turned the aircraft to the left ignoring the ground proximity warning system and the plane hit the cliff."
After the crash – as usual – the government had formed a five-member probe panel to submit a report on the crash. The panel led by former director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Rajesh Raj Dali had Aeronautical Engineer and Air Safety Specialist Deepak Bastola – from Nepali Army – Nepal Airlines Captain Shrawan Rijal, Simrik Airlines Engineering Director Ram Prasad Koirala and Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Suresh Acharya.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nepal to be positioned in global map to attract FDI

An international consulting firm is targeting to put Nepal in the global map for bringing foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country.
Frost & Sullivan is working on various plans including, organising an award ceremony, to promote Nepal as one of the best investment destinations in the world, according to senior partner and Asia Pacific managing director at Frost & Sullivan Manoj Menon. "Likewise, In November, Frost & Sullivan is hosting 'Growth, Innovation and Leadership Forum' in Nepal to encourage a spirit of collaboration among its customers to leverage visionary innovation that addresses global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today's market participants'," he added.
"We are already working on various pilot projects in 14 areas, including software development, research, automotive, telecommunications, capacity building, and energy,” Menon said, adding that as a global consulting firm headquartered in California, US, Frost & Sullivan has now formally entered Nepal aiming at providing domestic and international clients access to world-class services on market research and analysis to drive innovation, develop growth strategies and tap business opportunities.
“As part of our global campaign to put Nepal in the global map to facilitate foreign direct investment, we have organised a webinar 'Uncovering Nepal: Exploring Trends and Emerging Opportunities', in Kathmandu today,” he added. "It will help provide insight into potential of key industries like energy and tourism, to its global clients."
Along with former finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, Physical Infrastructure secretary Arjun Kumar Karki, Jyoti Group chairman Padma Jyoti, Surya Nepal managing director Abhimanyu Poddar and Global president and managing partner at Frost & Sullivan Aroop Zutshi, people from around 15 countries of Asia Pacific and Middle East took part, in the webinar today.
The firm has also opened its office in Nepal, appointing Mangesh Lal Shrestha as its managing director for Nepal.
The Nepal team is currently preparing research reports on telecommunications, healthcare, energy and tourism sectors, according to Menon, who claims that Frost & Sullivan has been working with governments and private sectors both. "We will also work to bridge the gap between policymakers and the private sector from around the globe, including domestic investors." he added.
"We will focus on almost every sector to help the government and the private sector drive innovation," Menon said, adding that the firm will also inform global clients about investment opportunities in Nepal. "Many investors have been considering investing in Nepal despite ongoing political instability. If proper policies are developed, foreign investors are keen to invest mainly in hydropower and tourism related infrastructure," he added.
Managing director of Frost & Sullivan Nepal Mangesh Lal Shrestha said that the country needs to promote digital technology, skilled manpower and increase the country's publicity in the international market to attract a large volume of investments even amid ongoing political instability.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Nepse suspends share trading

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) suspended share trading for today.
The Nepse decided to suspend share trading – after brokerage firms requested it to – as the share brokers' back office system had some problem to implement the new brokerage commission.
According to Nepse, brokerage firms requested Nepse that they were yet to complete the process for billing transactions according to the reduced commission rate.
Though, the stock market analysts blame lack of coordination among stakeholders for the suspension of share trading, Nepse said that the trading will resume as usual from tomorrow.
The investors were kept in dark all day long citing 'technical glitches' and delay in updating the Broker Back Office System, or the billing system. However, the brokers attributed the suspension of share trading to delay in updating the reduced commission rate in their system. But the company that manages the software – Mandala System – said that the application was ready and there was no reason for halting share trading. "The brokers submitted the billing format only today after carrying out discussions with Sebon and the bourse,” said Mandala’s proprietor Biplav Man Singh. “If the billing format was presented to us on Friday, the trading would be possible today."
Amending the Securities Businessperson (Stock Broker, Securities Dealer and Market Maker) Regulations 2008, Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) had directed the Nepse on July 20 (Wednesday) to implement the revised broker commission from Sunday.
But Nepse sent the official letter to the brokers asking for immediate implementation of the new regulation only on Friday.
Mandala – upon receiving the direction – had sought a week’s time to update the system. The broker community has asked the software management company to update the system by mobilising additional human resources to facilitate trading from Monday, according to a press release issued by the Stock Brokers’ Association Of Nepal. "The association and its members are committed to facilitating trading from Monday," it said, apologising to all the investors for the inconvenience caused because of technical difficulties.
The brokers today also held separate discussions with officials from Sebon and Nepse before submitting the new billing format to the Mandala. The brokers have also claimed that they have welcomed the move to reduce the commission rate.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Banks to be allowed to sell five more currencies

The central bank is planning to allow banks to trade in 5 more currencies freely further liberalising the foreign exchange regime.
"Nepal Rastra Bank is soon issuing a directive permitting banks to freely trade another 5 currencies," according to a source at the central bank. "The banks will also be allowed to sell Swedish kroner, Danish kroner, Hong Kong dollar, Kuwaiti dinar and Bahrain dinar."
Currently, banks are not allowed too sale but only buy these currencies.
The banks will be allowed to trade 5 more companies freely within the next three weeks, according to the central bank sources.
The Monetary Policy for the current fiscal year 2015-16 had announced to let banks tarde freely more currencies.
The provision will make Nepali migrant easier while travelling to those countries. Currently Nepalis traveling in those countries need to carry US dollar.
According to the bankers, they cannot open nostro accounts in currencies, whose selling rates have not been fixed. A nostro account is an account held by a bank in a foreign currency in another bank.
Likewise, customers also cannot open accounts in these currencies. But the new provision will simplify things for both banks and customers and business deals would become easier.
Currently, US dollar, Euro, British pound, Swiss franc, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Singapore dollar and Japanese yen, have been traded freely. Likewise, in recent years the central bank has added Chinese yuan, Qatari rial, Thai baht, Saudi Arabian riyal, UAE dirham, Malaysian ringgit and South Korean won in the freely tradable basket.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sebon slashes OTC fee

Following the reduction of brokerage commission, Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) has slashed the transaction fee charged while trading shares in Over-The-Counter (OTC) market by up to 90 per cent.
For transactions of up to Rs 25,000 in the OTC market, the new charge has been slashed by 90 per cent to 0.20 per cent from 2 percent, whereas for transactions of Rs 25,001 to Rs 50,000, the fee has been reduced by 88 per cent to 0.18 per cent from 1.5 percent, the board said, adding that for trading of above Rs 50,001, the fee has been cut by 85 per cent to 0.15 per cent from 1 per cent.
Investors of public companies registered in OCR but not listed in Nepse as well as delisted companies use the OTC market for share transactions. Likewise, public companies, whose shares are not traded in the secondary market, are required to register with the Office of Company Registrar to allow trading of their shares in OTC market.
There has been a transaction of around Rs 3 million to Rs 4 million so far after the capital market started the OTC market, according to the Sebon. "The OTC market in Nepal is in a preliminary stage and the decision to cut the transaction cost will encourage more investors and companies to come to the OTC market," according to chairman of the Sebon Rewat Bahadur Karki.
The OTC market was not in use until Sebon took a lead in December last year by activating the market in collaboration with Office of Company Registrar (OCR). OTC is a security traded in some context other than on a formal exchange.
The regulatory authority of the capital market has – considering lukewarm response of investors to OTC market and recommendations of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) – reduced transaction charges hoping that the downwards revision will attract more investors to the OTC market and also help fuel growth of the overall securities market.

Will govt refund tax collected since July 16

The government has to refund the taxes collected since the last one week – the beginning of the current fiscal year on July 16 – as Finance Bills presented by the incumbent government were rejected by Parliament today. However, the government can continue to spend as usual as the Appropriations Bill has already been passed.
"Since the Finance Bills have failed, the Periodic Tax Recovery Act, 1955 will become redundant, and the government has to refund tax collected under that Act," according to former finance secretary Rameshwor Khanal.
Though it has never happened before in the history of Nepal, the government has to refund the taxes collected since July 16, the beginning of the current fiscal year, following rejection of the Finance Bills by Parliament on Friday, he added.
The Periodic Tax Recovery Act 1955, which is meant to help the government continue to mobilise taxes, came automatically into effect from the day after finance minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel presented the budget for the fiscal year 2016-17 on June 28. And it would have been automatically superseded had the Finance Bills been approved by Parliament today.
The Periodic Tax Recovery Act, 1955 authorises the government to collect taxes for 6 months until the Finance Bills are duly approved by the House. "But when the Finance Bills are rejected, then the Periodic Tax Recovery Act also becomes redundant," he said, adding that any taxes collected under the said laws need to be refunded.
Chief of the Customs Department Shishir Dhungana, however, said that the government would now bring in a Periodic Tax Recovery Directive to help mobilise taxes from Sunday.
Parliament had scheduled approval of the corollary bills on July 13 as it had already approved the Appropriation Bill, paving the way for expenditures by the government from the beginning of the new fiscal year. But the incumbent government was reduced to a minority as one of the key coalition partners, CPN (Maoist Centre), withdrew its support on July 13. The Finance Bills then became uncertain.
The political tug-of-war that has left the fate of the budget uncertain is a historic blunder, Khanal added.
Nepal has seen many things – that it had never witnessed in its history – over the past decade, some good others bad. And as if that were not enough, the country could now also see a new budget altogether for the current fiscal year 2016-17 once a new government is formed.
With the House today rejecting the Finance Bills – including the Finance Bill 2016, the Bill to Mobilise Internal Loans, and the Loan and Guarantee Bill (21st amendment) – the future of the budget introduced by the Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli government has also become uncertain as the new government will be in moral pressure to bring new budget.
It will eventually hit an already battered economy hard.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Broker commission slashed by almost half

The capital market regulator has nearly halved brokerage commission for trading of share and securities in the stock market. It has reduced the brokerage commission on share and bond transaction by maximum of 40 per cent.
According to the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon), stockbrokers will now charge a maximum of 0.60 per cent and minimum of 0.40 per cent service fee. Earlier, they used to charge from minimum 0.7 per cent to maximum 1 per cent commission on transaction of shares and bonds.
The brokerage commission for transaction of shares up to Rs 50,000 has been brought down to 0.6 per cent from existing 1 per cent. Likewise, commission for transaction between Rs 50,000 and Rs 500,000 have been reduced to 0.55 percent from current 0.9 percent.
The brokerage will charge 0.60 per cent on sales or purchase of shares of up to Rs 50,000 in value, the board said, adding that the stockbrokers cannot charge service fee of over 0.55 per cent of the transaction value on sales or purchase of shares worth over Rs 50,000 to up to Rs 500,000. "Earlier, the brokerage used to charge 0.9 per cent commission of the transaction value worth over Rs 50,000 to up to Rs 500,000."
The service fee for sales or purchase of shares worth over Rs 500,000 to up to Rs 2 million has been fixed at 0.50 per cent of the transaction value, while service fee for sales or purchase of shares worth over Rs 2 million to up to Rs 10 million has been fixed at 0.45 per cent of the transaction value. The service fee for sales or purchase of shares worth over Rs 10 million has been fixed at 0.40 per cent of the transaction value.
Amending the Securities Businessperson (Stock Broker, Securities Dealer and Market Maker) Regulations 2008, Sebon had presented the proposal to the ministry for approval some 18 months ago. The Finance Ministry has today approved the amendments proposed by the Securities board.
After getting approval from the ministry, the Sebon has directed Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) to bring the new fees into immediate effect. However, the new rates will come into effect only after Nepse enforces it.
The decision to bring down brokerage charges has come in the wake of complaints from the investors that such commission was the highest in South Asia. Though decline in commission reduces brokerage's income directly, the lower commission rate will increase transactions and attract new investors which can counterbalance our revenue.
The board has also revised service fees on transaction of securities other than shares issued by companies and sovereign bonds issued by central bank or other government agencies. The service fee has been revised downwards to 0.30 per cent of the transaction amount on sales and purchase of such securities worth up to Rs 500,000. If the transaction amount of such securities stands at over Rs 500,000 to up to Rs 5 million, then service fee cannot exceed 0.25 per cent of the transaction amount, the board added. "If transaction value of such securities stands at over Rs 5 million, then the service fee of 0.20 per cent of the transaction amount should be imposed."
"The rates had not been reviewed for the last eight years," chairman of Sebon Rewat Bahadur Karki said, adding that implementation of automated trading system has nearly doubled turnover in recent days. "We decided to review the rates and bring it down so that the transaction costs become cheaper."
The board also decided to reduce the rate to encourage investors to come to the market and provide more liquidity," he added.
The investors have welcomed the move, saying that it will provide additional financial incentive for trading, and the trading will see increment in the days to come.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Will new government bring another budget

Nepal has seen many things – that it had never witnessed in its history – in the past one decade. As if it were not enough, the country could see a new budget altogether for the current fiscal year 2016-17 with the formation of a new government.
With the latest political tug-of war, the future of the budget introduced by the Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli-led government has become uncertain, which is eventually going to hit the economy hard. As the incumbent Prime Minister Oli is buying time in Baluwatar, claiming constitutional confusion, the opposition Nepal Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) – a coalition partner till last week – are showing reluctance to pass the budget.
Nepali Congress leader Bimalendra Nidhi said that the next government may not give continuity to the budget that was presented by the incumbent finance minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel in the parliament on June 28. "Since the remaining budget bills have no relevance as they have not been passed by the end of the last fiscal year, July 16, the new government could bring another budget," he said, claiming that premier Oli is trying to buy time asking the opposition to pass the budget first. "Since the budget has not yet passed, there is enough chance that the new government will bring new budget."
"As the parliament has already passed the Appropriation Bill letting the government spend from the beginning of the current fiscal year, which started on July 16, the remaining bills have no relevance," Nidhi added.
The parliament had endorsed the Appropriation Bill with a majority, authorising the government hand to spend from July 16.
The government has no problem either in mobilising revenue as the Periodic Tax Recovery Act, 1955 has come into effect from June 29. The Act will authorise government to mobilise tax for 6 months till November 30.
Former finance secretary Rameshwor Khanal also said that the government will have no problem in mobilising revenue and spending for six months as the parliament has passed the Periodic Tax Recovery Act, 1955 and the Appropriation Bill.
But he also said that the next government could bring new budget, disowning the one that is in parliament as it has not been passed. "The parliament will ask the next government to either carry on with the current budget or bring the new one," he said, adding that though it has not happened in the history, the next government could disown the budget presented by the incumbent government and bring a new one altogether.
Khanal, however, also said that the opposition should either not have let the government pass the Appropriation Bill or there is no point in obstructing the remaining bills.
Poudel had tabled Appropriation Bill with other bills related to budget including Finance Bill 2016, Bill to Mobilize Internal Loans, and Loan and Guarantee Bill (21st amendment), seeking parliament's approval on July 8. The house passed the Appropriation Bill on the same day but the remaining bills were scheduled to be approved by the parliament on July 13, before the new fiscal year started.
However, with the coalition partner CPN (Maoist centre) withdrawing support to the Oli-led government and registering a no-confidence motion on July 13, the budget approval process has been postponed indefinitely.
Now the political wrangling has made the future of not only the budget but also the economy uncertain as both the government and opposition is making the budget a stepping stone to the power.
The ruling CPN-UML on Sunday has asked the opposition Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre) to help pass the budget before discussing the no-confidence motion. But Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre) have been asking Oli to resign and pave way for forming new government before passing the budget.
Finance Minister Poudel on June 28 announced a budget of Rs 1,048.90 billion for the current fiscal year. The budget that was brought before the fiscal year started, according to the new constitution, had raised hopes that it will be implemented and that public spending will be increased. However, the latest development has again made the future of the budget and the economy uncertain.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Nepal's inflation highest in South Asia

Nepal has the highest inflation in South Asia, according to a regional report.
According to the Asian Development Outlook (ADO), published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Monday, Nepal is projected to have the highest inflation rate in South Asia.
The inflation rate has been the highest in Nepal among the South Asian countries for the last couple of years. Nepal's inflation started to stand above all the South Asian countries since fiscal year 2012-13, data shows. In 2011-12, Nepal had the third lowest inflation in the region after Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. However, inflation started going overboard since the last four fiscal years, and continuing the trend for the current fiscal year – that started from July 16 – too.
The ADB has also projected the inflation rate to be at 8.2 percent – that will also be highest in the region – in the current fiscal year 2016-17.
Likewise, the ADB has projected 10.5 per cent inflation for the last fiscal year 2015-16 – that ended 3 days ago on July 15 – the highest among the eight South Asian countries and double the regional average of 5.2 per cent.
Though the central bank and the government had targeted to keep the inflation under 8.5 per cent in the last fiscal year, the inflation has been looking to go above double-digit, according to the central bank's macroeconomic report of the first 11 months of last fiscal year 2015-16. The consumer price inflation – according to the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) –increased to 11.1 per cent this mid-June from 7.4 per cent in the same period last year.
Though supply side constraints and blockades have been blamed for high inflation, lack of effective and efficient market monitoring, irregular power supply and shortage of raw materials coupled with the transport syndicate are largely responsible for the ever increasing inflation.
The increasing inflation has been pushing the vulnerable middle class and fixed income group below the poverty line, making Nepal the poorest country in South Asia by 2021, according to senior economist Madan Kumar Dahal.
Currently, Nepal is the third poorest country in the region after Bangladesh and India, according to the World Bank report, which has not included Afghanistan, the newest member of the regional body.
However, the Madhes unrest and Indian blockade have pushed almost 1 million more Nepalis into poverty. They will be joining the nearly 1 million already nudged into poverty by the devastating earthquakes of April and May.
According to the ADB, the devastating earthquakes challenged Nepal's growth and development prospects over short to medium-term. The disaster exacted a huge human toll, taking nearly 9,000 lives and destroying 750,000 homes, factories, and cultural heritage sites.
"It also upended the livelihoods of 5.4 million, pushing an estimated 3 per cent of the population into poverty," it said, adding that the government's post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA) estimated $5.2 billion in capital stock losses and another $1.9 billion in economic losses.
The combined losses are estimated to equal one-third of GDP. The cost of recovery and rebuilding the lost capital stock is estimated at $6.7 billion.
Notwithstanding the significant cost of reconstruction and recovery, the key policy challenge is not the dearth of resources. Nepal's development partners pledged $4.0 billion in reconstruction aid during the International Conference on Nepal's Reconstruction (ICNR) that the government successfully organised in the aftermath of the earthquakes.
Further, in response to the earthquakes, the then Sushil Koirala-led government presented an ambitious budget for 2015-16, which increased total spending to 32.1 per cent of GDP from 24.3 per cent in 2014-15, while capital expenditure was estimated to more than doubled to 10 per cent of GDP, apart from the $910 million allocation for reconstruction -- that is nearly half of the capital budget, according to the ADB.
However, the bureaucratic dilemma and political wrangling halted not only the capital expenditure but also the reconstruction works. By the end of the fiscal year, the government has been able to spend only half of the allocated capital budget. By the end of the fiscal year, the government has been able to spend Rs 117.59 billion capital budget – or 56.30 per cent of the total capital budget of Rs 208.87 billion – according to the Financial Comptroller General's Office (FCGO).

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Nepse begins four-hour trading from today

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) extended trading hours to four hours a day from today, up from regular three-hour trading till last week.
In the early days, almost two decades ago, the share market used to see trading for only two hours a day – from 11 am to 1 pm. Daily trading period was increased to three hours -- from 12 noon to 3 pm later on, which has been extended to four hours from today, according to Rabindra Pradhan, a stock broker.
Nepse decided to extend trading hours following complaints from investors and stock brokers that the three-hour trading time was not sufficient. Trading days, however, have been kept unchanged.
Of late, the stock market has been seeing daily turnover in excess of Rs 1 billion due to lucrative returns that the secondary market offers compared to other investment avenues.
Few months ago, daily transaction hovered over Rs 300 million.
Today – the first day of the four-hour trading period – a total of 2.2 million units of shares of 136 companies worth Rs 1.36 billion were traded in the market. The benchmark Nepse index gained 27.59 points to close the day’s trading at 1,745.74 points from today morning’s opening. The market capitalisation reached Rs 1,920.33 billion at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) – the capital market regulator – has asked the Nepse management to initiate reform measures along with extension in trading hours. “The extension of trading hours is appreciable,” Sebon said in a statement issued on Friday. “Nepse should also facilitate to process of bringing clearing bank and start massive reforms for sustainable growth of the share market,” it added.
Sebon, on Friday, also formed a committee to look into big investments in the share market on suspicion of illicit flow of money. The committee led by executive director of Supervision and Research Department of Sebon has directors of Legal Enforcement Division and Securities Businessperson Supervision Division along with representatives from Department of Money Laundering Investigation (DMLI), Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police and experts in the field as members, according to Sebon Director Niraj Giri.
The committee has been asked to submit its report within a month.
Sebon formed the committee after the Ministry of Finance raised suspicion over the ever increasing transaction amount despite poor macroeconomic fundamentals.
Nepse, however, has claimed that rise in transaction is also due to adoption of dematerialised forms of shares trading, which has made trading easier, apart from lucrative returns. High demand for stocks, low bank interest rates and lack of other attractive investment opportunity in the country coupled with handsome returns compared to other sectors is not only propelling the benchmark index to new highs almost every day but also witnessing transaction of over Rs 1 billion ever day. The bonus and rights shares announced by most of the listed companies – especially banks and financial institutions and insurance companies – to meet the new paid-up capital requirement is yet another key attraction pulling the investors to the market, according to share market analysts.

Nepse begins four-hour trading from today

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) extended trading hours to four hours a day from today, up from regular three-hour trading till last week.
In the early days, almost two decades ago, the share market used to see trading for only two hours a day – from 11 am to 1 pm. Daily trading period was increased to three hours -- from 12 noon to 3 pm later on, which has been extended to four hours from today, according to Rabindra Pradhan, a stock broker.
Nepse decided to extend trading hours following complaints from investors and stock brokers that the three-hour trading time was not sufficient. Trading days, however, have been kept unchanged.
Of late, the stock market has been seeing daily turnover in excess of Rs 1 billion due to lucrative returns that the secondary market offers compared to other investment avenues.
Few months ago, daily transaction hovered over Rs 300 million.
Today – the first day of the four-hour trading period – a total of 2.2 million units of shares of 136 companies worth Rs 1.36 billion were traded in the market. The benchmark Nepse index gained 27.59 points to close the day’s trading at 1,745.74 points from today morning’s opening. The market capitalisation reached Rs 1,920.33 billion at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) – the capital market regulator – has asked the Nepse management to initiate reform measures along with extension in trading hours. “The extension of trading hours is appreciable,” Sebon said in a statement issued on Friday. “Nepse should also facilitate to process of bringing clearing bank and start massive reforms for sustainable growth of the share market,” it added.
Sebon, on Friday, also formed a committee to look into big investments in the share market on suspicion of illicit flow of money. The committee led by executive director of Supervision and Research Department of Sebon has directors of Legal Enforcement Division and Securities Businessperson Supervision Division along with representatives from Department of Money Laundering Investigation (DMLI), Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police and experts in the field as members, according to Sebon Director Niraj Giri.
The committee has been asked to submit its report within a month.
Sebon formed the committee after the Ministry of Finance raised suspicion over the ever increasing transaction amount despite poor macroeconomic fundamentals.
Nepse, however, has claimed that rise in transaction is also due to adoption of dematerialised forms of shares trading, which has made trading easier, apart from lucrative returns. High demand for stocks, low bank interest rates and lack of other attractive investment opportunity in the country coupled with handsome returns compared to other sectors is not only propelling the benchmark index to new highs almost every day but also witnessing transaction of over Rs 1 billion ever day. The bonus and rights shares announced by most of the listed companies – especially banks and financial institutions and insurance companies – to meet the new paid-up capital requirement is yet another key attraction pulling the investors to the market, according to share market analysts.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Financial inclusion in Nepal better: Report

The level of financial inclusion in Nepal is better with 61 per cent adults having access to formal finance, according to a report.
According to the findings from the supply side study and road map for financial inclusion in Nepal, launched in Kathmandu on Friday, only 18 per cent are completely excluded from access to formal finance.
The findings of a joint study of Nepal Rastra Bank, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) also stated that the actual usage of the financial products is, however, low especially with regard to digital transactions, insurance and credit. "Existing financial products are homogeneous and does not meet the diverse financial needs of the population," it reads, adding that there is a need for access to low-cost, flexible and diverse financial products, better tailored to the unique needs of the population which can enable individuals to manage their financial lives, increase income, manage risk and build wealth over time.
The findings have recommended six broader areas including unlocking constrained credit and savings markets; improving payment systems; bolstering risks mitigation capabilities; enhancing and leveraging locally based financial service providers; enhancing financial inclusion support in state governance, and effective consumer empowerment and education.
The report was jointly launched by vice chair of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada; governor of the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) Dr Chiranjibi Nepal and ambassador of the Danish Embassy Kirsten Geelan.
Addressing the launching ceremony, Khatiwada highlighted that the financial inclusion should be meaningful so that it can contribute to improving the living standards of the people and take poor people out of poverty.
Likewise, Governor Nepal, on the occasion, said that the goal of the financial inclusion should be focused toward raising the quality of the life of poor people and reducing the level of poverty.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sebon to check illegal flow of money in share market

The capital market regulator is going to investigate 'suspicious big' investments in the share market without discouraging genuine investors.
Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) has formed a committee today to conduct investigations into big investments in the share market on suspicion of illicit flow of money as the daily turnover in the market has been exceeding Rs 1 billion lately.
The committee formed under the convenership of the executive director of Supervision and Research Department of Sebon has directors of Legal Enforcement Division and Securities Businessperson Supervision Division, apart from representatives from Department of Money Laundering Investigation (DMLI), Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police and experts in the field, according to Sebon director Niraj Giri.
The committee has been asked to submit its report within a month.
The capital market regulator has been monitoring 'big investors' in the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) since a few months as the daily turnover has been regularly looking above Rs 1 billion.
“The committee can take further information of the big investors of the market from the brokerage firms,” said chairman of the board Rewat Bahadur Karki.
It has been reported that the committee will keep an eye on investors whose daily transactions are over Rs 5 million. After the enforcement of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in the country, the brokerage firms are also required to notify the capital market regulator regarding transactions of above Rs 1 million.
"Now, the committee can ask for further details of the investors from the brokerage firms and investigate them if the committee has suspicions on the investor’s source of income,” Giri said, adding that the board is going to conduct investigations to prevent the chances of money laundering through the capital market. "Primarily, it is illegal and also will ultimately distort the sound growth of the capital market."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Nepal Airlines announces resumption of Kathmandu-Dubai flight

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) today announced resumption of its flights on the Kathmandu-Dubai route starting from August 18, four years after it was suspended due to the lack of aircraft. The Kathmandu-Dubai operation was ceased in 2012.
NAC spokesperson Ram Hari Sharma said that the airlines would be conducting three flights per week – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays – on the sector.
NAC is offering the lowest promotional airfares on the sector of Rs 25,000 one way and Rs 42,000 return. “We have not set a deadline to end the promo fares but even after the end of the scheme, we will be continuing to offer competitive fares,” he added.
The national flag career – during its heydays – used to fly to Amsterdam, Colombo, Dhaka, Frankfurt, Karachi, London, Osaka, Paris, Shanghai, Singapore and Vienna, besides five Indian cities of Bengaluru, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Patna. But it had cut the flights to all these destinations due to lack of aircraft.
It currently flies to Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok and only three cities in India including Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru.
Flying to UAE is profitable as it is the fourth largest destination for Nepali migrant workers. More than 200,000 Nepali migrant workers are estimated to be working in the UAE currently.  They send home nearly Rs 80 billion every year.
Likewise, the national flag carrier is also going to restart services to Guangzhou, the third largest city in South Central China, by September.
NAC plans to increase the number of destinations after it acquired two new Airbus A320 jets last year. "By the end of this year, we will be serving nine international routes compared to seven at present,” said Sharma.

NAC repays fifth installment of loan
Meanwhile, NAC has repaid Rs 323.61 million to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) today, the fifth installment of the Rs 10 billion loan it had taken to buy two new A320s. The airline has made loan repayments totalling Rs 1.59 billion so far. The loan matures in 15 years and NAC is required to make interest and installment payments on a quarterly basis.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rs 9.80 billion wiped off from market in a single day after Maoists quit government

Ruling coalition partner CPN (Maoist Center's) decision to withdraw support from the government caused the share market to lose Rs 9.8 billion in a single day.
The market saw a roller coaster ride today during the intra-day trading, after the party withdrew its support from the Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli government.
The total market capitalisation fell to Rs 1,826.64 billion by the closing of the trading today, from today morning's opening of Rs 1,836.44 billion. The benchmark Nepse index also shed 9.2 points, or 0.54 per cent, to close the market at 1693.07 points.
According to Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse), almost all trading groups, except Manufacturing and Processing, and Others, shed values. Insurance was the biggest loser of the day as its sub-index fell 97.21 points, followed by Hydropower sub-index which shed 34.77 points.
Despite Nepse's fall, a total of 1.64 million shares of 138 listed companies worth Rs 1.13 billion were traded in the market through 5,213 transactions today.
Janata Bank Ltd, Everest Bank Ltd, Nepal Life Insurance Company Ltd, Nepal Grameen Bikas Bank Ltd and Nepal Bangladesh Bank Ltd were the top five companies in terms of turnover, while Sagarmatha Insurance, Bottlers Nepal (Tarai) Ltd and Machhapuchhchhre Bank were at the top in terms of gains in share values. Similarly, Mithila Laghubitta Bikas Bank, Laxmi Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha and Rastriya Beema Company Ltd (Promoter Shares) were the top losers of the day.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Insurance Board hikes accident cover for passengers

Introducing a new motor vehicle insurance tariff policy, Insurance Board (IB) has increased the premium for third party motor insurance policy as well as the minimum coverage effective from the next fiscal year.
Revising the motor insurance tariff directives, the board has hiked the insurance coverage amount by five times in the case of death of passengers in vehicle accidents, effective from the beginning of the next fiscal year.
Issuing the amended Directive on Motor Insurance Rate, the regulatory authority of the insurance sector has increased the coverage to Rs 500,000 per person from current Rs 100,000. Currently, third party – those not in the vehicles – gets a coverage of Rs 500,000.
The board said the provision is applicable to passengers in all types of public and private vehicles; four-wheeler, three-wheeler and two-wheeler.
Premium, however, differs with the capacity of motorbikes. To purchase the new insurance policies, owners of two-wheeler with engine capacity of less than 150cc will have to pay annual premium of Rs 1,500, excluding taxes. For owners of two-wheeler with engine capacity of 150-250 cc, the annual premium has been fixed at Rs 1,700 (excluding taxes), while owners of two-wheeler with engine capacity of over 250 cc have to deposit premium of Rs 1,900 (excluding taxes) per year, according to the board.
“If existing policyholders wish to upgrade to the new policy, they can do so by paying some extra fee," IB Director Shree Man Karki said, adding, "but it has to be done within the month of Shrawan (July 16 to August 16). "The insurance companies have already been notified."
The latest revision made to the premium rates, however, has not brought about changes in third-party liability coverage."
Third-party insurance enables policyholders to claim for compensation if their vehicles kill or injure people or damage properties during road accidents.
Currently, owners of two-wheeler can claim for up to Rs 5 million in compensation from insurance companies under third-party liability. This includes compensation of up to Rs 2.5 million to cover losses of human lives or cover medical expenses of people injured in the accident.
Compensation of another Rs 2.5 million is provided to restore properties damaged during accidents.
Karki said the new provision is in line with the budget announcement. "Under the vehicle insurance, a similar provision of third party insurance will be made to insure the passengers travelling in public vehicles,” the budget for 2016-17 had announced.
Likewise, the board has doubled the compensation for performing last ritual of an accident victim to Rs 50,000. Earlier the compensation amount was Rs 25,000. It has also raised the medical insurance of the injured to Rs 300,000 per person from current Rs 5,000.
A caretaker of the wounded will receive Rs 500 daily for 45 days from previous 30 days, according to the amendment.
The new provision has maintained the third-party insurance at Rs 500,000, while the insurance coverage ceiling for medical treatment has been raised to Rs 300,000 from current Rs 200,000. All types of vehicles, including ambulance, used to transport the wounded to the hospital will be provided Rs 10,000.
Karki also said that the board has introduced the 'knock for knock' system. "If two vehicles collide, insurers will have to bear the cost for maintaining the vehicles concerned,” according to the new directive.
In case of passengers’ death in such collision, compensation of crew member and riders will be drawn from the insurance coverage of the vehicles concerned. "The insurer will have to be reimbursed the amount from the insurer of the other vehicle which is found guilty for the accident.”
Third-party vehicle facing loss due an accident will be provided the repairing cost without depreciation provision.
However, the board has not made any insurance coverage provision for a third person in a two-wheeler. "Only the driver and a pillion rider of a motorbike will be provided the insurance coverage of Rs 500,000,” the directive reads, adding that a child of less than one year of age would receive 25 per cent of the insurance policy amount, while a child of 1-5 years of age would be provided 50 per cent of the policy amount.
"If the treatment of an injured person is done in foreign countries, including India, the family members concerned will have to inform the insurer in a week," Karki said, adding that the provision has been enforced to discourage the practice of producing fake bills to receive hefty sum for treatment coverage.
According to the new directives, the premium fee of motor insurance has been increased in line with the coverage amount. While owners of motorbike will have to pay additional Rs 500 per year for insurance, automobile owners will have to pay total premium of Rs 700 per seat. Compensation covering ambulance cost of Rs 10,000 to take the injured person to the hospital, and Rs 500 per day for up to 45 days for the attendant of the injured person and 25 per cent discount on premium for disabled-friendly motorbikes are some of the highlights of the new directive.
The liabilities of motorbike alone stand at Rs 1.6 million. However, the premium has been increased by only Rs 500. It means owners of two-wheeler can insulate themselves with insurance coverage of over Rs 6.6 million by paying a premium of as little as Rs 1,500 per year, according to the Motor Insurance Premium Directive.
Insurance companies can, however, deny to these payments, if policyholders were found to be driving under influence or if accidents were premeditated.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Himalaya Airlines launching daily flights to Doha

Himalaya Airlines (H9) – a Nepal-China joint venture airline – is all set to operate daily direct flights to Doha, Qatar from July 11.
According to a press statement of the private airliner issued here today, it has decided to launch daily flights to the capital Doha following the increasing demands of the passengers to the destination.
Commenting on this daily direct flight, vice president of the company Vijay Shrestha said, that offering a daily direct service to Doha, Qatar was an indication that the airlines would like to prioritise its service in this route. "The daily service will allow Himalaya Airlines to offer its services to a larger base of our passengers’ society, mainly the Nepalis living and working in Qatar."
The airline will depart from Kathmandu at 2300 hours (local time) and land at 0130 hours (local time) in Doha. Similarly, the return flight will depart at 0230 hours from Doha and land in Kathmandu at 1015 hours the next day.
The aircraft has 150 economy and 8 business class seats.
The airline’s new Airbus 320-214 is currently flying to Doha thrice a week – Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays – since May 31 marking it as the first scheduled destination of the airlines.
Himalaya Airlines – a full-service premium carrier – established in August 2014, started its scheduled flight operations from May 31 flying directly to Doha, Qatar. The airline has planned services to more destinations including Delhi, China, Colombo, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Dammam in the near future.
Over the coming five years, the airline aims at acquiring 15 Airbus aircraft and will operate from Kathmandu to various cities in Asia and beyond.
The company said it would introduce long-haul wide body aircraft of A330 family in due course of time for the operation of direct flights to Japan, Korea, Europe, Australia, and America.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

US announces expansion of trade facilities for Nepal

Nepal received duty-free market access in the US for its travel goods like luggage, backpacks, handbags and wallets under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme. The United States Trade Representative's (USTR) Office has announced the Annual Product Review under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Programme.
The measure adds new duty-free status for travel goods – like luggage, backpacks, handbags, and wallets – for Least Developed Beneficiary Developing Countries (LDBDCs), including Nepal.
According to a statement issued by the US Embassy in Kathmandu today, the new rule makes these products eligible for duty-free status beginning July 1. "US imports of travel and luggage goods products totaled almost $10 billion in 2015," it added.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for Nepali businesses to expand their exports to US markets,” US Ambassador Alaina B Teplitz is quoted in the statement. "A strong commitment to open-market policies, a stable and transparent legal environment that secures property rights, policies that foster dynamic entrepreneurial activity and strategic infrastructure investments will help Nepal make the most of this opportunity," she added.
In 2015, Nepal ranked second, after Cambodia, of all LDC exporters of luggage products to the US. Nepal's exports of these products have grown seven per cent since 2014, totaling $1.8 million in 2015.
US trade preference programmes provide opportunities for many of the world's poorest countries to use trade to grow their economies and climb out of poverty.  The 40-year old GSP is the largest and oldest US trade preference programme.
Under GSP, the US provides duty-free treatment for many imports from beneficiary developing countries, and additional products for LDBDCs. About 5,000 products from 122 beneficiary developing countries and territories, including 43 least-developed countries, are eligible for duty-free treatment when exported to the US under the GSP programme.
Nearly 1,500 of these products are reserved for duty-free treatment for LDBDCs only.
According to economic counsellor at the Nepali embassy in the US Kailash Raj Pokhrel, Nepal has received the duty-free facility for 27 items. These items are in addition to the 66 garment products that have received a similar facility under a separate Nepal-specific legislation.
Although the GSP facility covered 5,000 items from 127 countries, the list included only 5 per cent of Nepali products, including flags, caps, cigars and scarves of the total items exported to the US. Now, the new items have been added to the list of goods for which Nepal will get duty-free market access in the US.
Earlier, in February, US President Barak Obama signed legislation authorising special trade preference to Nepal providing duty-free market access to 66 types of garment items including certain carpets, headgears, shawls, scarves and travel goods. This is a new Nepal-specific tariff preference programme while the GSP is a 40-year-old trade preference programme, the oldest such programme.

‘Maintaining price stability is central bank's responsibility’

Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) – as a central bank – should work for maintaining price stability, whereas the government should shoulder the responsibility of propelling growth, according to experts.
As rising inflation means decline in value of money, the central bank has to crack the whip on inflation to maintain the value of money and keep it stronger, according to head of the Central Department of Economics under Tribhuvan University Ram Prasad Gyawali.
In the budget for Fiscal Year 2016-17, the government has targeted to contain inflation under 7.5 per cent, whereas the economic growth has been targeted at 6.5 per cent.
However, the economic growth and inflation targets have been eluding the government for the past couple of years due to various reasons. The government has failed to meet economic growth and inflation targets in the current fiscal year as well. Though the government had targeted 6 per cent economic growth in the current fiscal year, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) has estimated that the economy will grow by a mere 0.77 per cent.
Likewise, inflation is hovering above 10 per cent almost round the year even though the government had set a target of containing inflation below 8.5 per cent in the current fiscal year 2015-16. Due to rising inflation the value of deposit money in banks have also been eroding. Generally, banks are offering 1 per cent to 3 per cent interest on savings account. But the inflation above 10 per cent means a depositor will lose Rs 7 and the value of his Rs 100 in the bank account will be only Rs 93 at the end of the year, even after adding interest income. "Thus, its central bank's responsibility to maintain the value of the currency and tame the inflation, he added.
Nepal Bankers Association (NBA) president and chief executive officer of NMB Bank Upendra Poudel echoed Gyawali. "The central bank has to focus more on taming inflation,” he added.
The government and the central bank do not accept double-digit inflation as the failure of Monetary Policy. "Though they blame supply side constraints and non-economic reasons for exorbitant market price hike, it is the failure of the Monetary Policy,” Gyawali said, suggesting that the central bank should bring a tight Monetary Policy to contain inflation below the target for the next fiscal year.
"The government has targeted to contain inflation at 7.5 per cent in the coming fiscal year," he said, adding that there is every possibility of contain inflation at single-digit, if the central bank brings tight Monetary Policy by adopting open market operation policy. "The central bank, through its Monetary Policy, should manage financial chaos created by the government through its distributing and expansionary fiscal policy."
Due to rising inflation, depositors have been reluctant to keep their money in banks and are turning to share market which has been offering better returns compared to banks.
If the Monetary Policy marginally increases bank rates, the excess liquidity, which is fueling the inflation, can be controlled and the interest rates will go up, which would eventually attract more deposit in the banks, and also curtail capital flight. “People will be encouraged to deposit as they get comparatively more return,” added Gyawali.
The lending rates have been below the inflation, which is ridiculous, according to Sanima Bank’s chief executive Bhuwan Dahal. “Neither the lender nor the borrower is benefitting from the lower rates and also higher inflation,” he added.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Nepse mulls extending trading hours

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) has started preparation to extending share trading hours.
Currently, share trading is conducted for three hours – from 12 noon to 3 pm – five days a week, from Sunday to Thursday. However, Nepse has started homework for extending trading hour considering the growing demand in the market.
Issuing a press note, Nepse has also formally sought advice and suggestions from all stakeholders regarding extension of trading hours.
With increased demand and transaction in the stock market, Nepse officials say there is a room for extending the trading hour. Daily turnover, which used to over Rs 300 million a day, has climbed to over Rs 1 billion in recent weeks, thanks to technological advancement which has lured more investors into the secondary market.
On Monday alone, some 1.81 million units of shares of 140 companies worth Rs 1.55 billion were traded in the market. Despite this, the benchmark Nepse index shed 2.37 points to close the day's trading at 1,716.83 points. Market capitalisation also reached Rs 1,851.33 billion which is nearly 80 per cent of GDP.
Though, the Finance Ministry has been suspicious of the ever increasing transaction amount, and has also stepped up efforts to curb 'possible inflow' of illicit money into the secondary market, the market has been  bullish for the past one year.
Despite poor macroeconomic fundamentals, daily transaction of around Rs 1 billion everyday has raised regulator's brows, prompting regulators to caution investors against risks involved.
Nepse has however claimed that there is a need to extend trading hours as adoption of dematerialised forms of shares trading has attracted more investors to the market. "We want stakeholders to suggest to us pros and cons of the extension of trading hours,” Nepse added in the press note. The stock exchange has given stakeholders a week to send suggestions.
High demand for stocks, low bank interest rates and lack of other attractive investment opportunity in the country coupled with handsome return compared to other sectors is propelling the benchmark index to new highs almost every day. The other reason is attractive bonus and rights shares announced by most of the listed companies – especially banks and financial institutions and insurance companies – to meet the new paid-up capital requirement.
However, some say that the outdated software used by Nepse is hindering further growth and expansion of the country's only capital market.

Friday, July 1, 2016

National sector export strategies and NTM survey on cards

Ministry of Commerce(MoC) and International Trade Centre (ITC), Geneva are working jointly to develop Sector Export Strategy(SES) of 4 products and conduct a large-scale survey on exporters’ experiences with Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) in Nepal and destination markets. These products have been selected from the Trade Policy 2016 and Nepal Trade Integration Strategy NTIS 2016.
The ITC team accompanied with the focal point Mina Aryal from the ministry and the two navigators Dr Pradyumna Pandey from Ministry of Agriculture Development and Bimal Nepal from Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC) presented the preliminary results of the sector consultations and NTM Business Survey today.
While chairing the programme, officiating secretary of the Ministry of Commerce Toya Narayan Gyawali said that development of Sector Export Strategy and survey on Non-Tariff Measures are in line the trade policy 2016 and these initiatives are instrumental to enhance Nepal trade capacity building and competitive strength which have positive impact in socio-economic prospects of Nepal.
To develop export strategy in a participatory way, 4 stakeholders consultations were already conducted as part of the first phase of the SES design process between June 20 and June 30 in different regions including Jhapa for large cardamom, Ilam for tea, Pokhara for coffee and Kathmandu for handmade paper and paper products. The stakeholder consultations in the districts were managed by the Trade Export Promotion Centre in close coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture Development. Some 120 representatives from various government agencies, private sector and development partners took part in the different consultations.
The consultation meetings presented the stakeholders with an overview of the strategy design process, analysis of the sector specifics, including production, international market dynamics, and markets requirements. It also initiated discussions on the major issues to be addressed as well as define core teams to work for the second phase of the strategy design process. The results of the in-depth participative diagnostic will serve to develop the national export strategies documents and to design detailed plan of actions for the next five years.
The consultation identified some key critical export constraints concerning supplies capacities and the business environment. They also discussed on market entry issues like non-tariff and para-tariff measures' barriers.
The discussions have helped build consensus around the opportunities and challenges of the private sector, as well as the public sector support services. "We have discussed at length our respective constraints to export large cardamom and identify new opportunities to develop our sector," said Nirmal Bhattarai from Large Cardamoms Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal during consultation in Birtamod. "We are looking forward the core team meeting to develop the plan of action with ITC assistance," he added.
Similarly, president of Nepal Handmade Paper Association Mohan Khrishna Manandhar, on the occasion, said the consultation had helped build momentum for concerted action. "The interactions between the various actors of the public and private sectors helped build agreement on common challenges and need for a national sector strategy to develop the handmade paper sector," he added.
The second initiative, the NTM Business Survey has interviewed over 350 Nepali exporters on the difficulties they face with regulatory and procedural obstacles to trade. Initial findings of the survey show that SPS/TBT requirements of destination markets and the related conformity assessment requirements like testing and certification are the main concerns of companies – especially those exporting agricultural products. Lack of adequate testing and certification facilities in Nepal has made exporting difficult for companies due to higher cost and additional time required for testing abroad, the participants noted. The NTM business survey will continue until August with a target of covering 600 companies. The survey results will feed into the SES development process.
The SES document will be a common principle document for public and private sector. Product specific market constraints related to export to India expressed during the consultations were been transmitted to the MoC to incorporate in the agenda of the recent bilateral meetings between Nepal and India at the secretary level," according to focal person and under-secretary at the Ministry of Commerce Mina Aryal.
The SES design process will produce a set of four endorsed, coherent and comprehensive documents that will serve as action-oriented blueprints for enhancing trade performance in each sector.
The ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the United Nations (UN). The ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade (AfT) agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).